The UAE’s Federal Customs Authority sets the country’s customs policies. Each emirate also has its own customs authorities. Customs offices are located at airports, seaports, and on land borders.
To import goods into the UAE, companies must have the correct trade license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) from the emirate. Foreign companies can either set up office in the UAE or appoint a UAE national as sponsor, agent, or distributor to do business in the UAE “mainland” (that is, not in the free zones). Companies that set up in a FTZ can also use their trade license to import goods into that FTZ. To import goods, the UAE-based company (consignee/agent) should get a delivery order from the shipping agent and submit the following original standard trade documentation:
- Commercial invoice from the exporting company addressed to the importer with details about quantity, goods description, and total value of each imported item.
- Certificate of origin, stating the country of origin and approved by the Chamber of Commerce in the country of origin.
- Detailed packing list including weight, method of packing, and HS code for each item.
- Import permit from the competent agencies in case of importing restricted goods or duty exempted goods.
- Bill of entry or airway bill.
- Food products, also require the following certificates:
- Original health certificate issued by the appropriate government agency in the exporting country, attesting to the product’s fitness for human consumption.
- Original Halal slaughter certificate for meat and poultry products.
Except for food products, all shipments of goods to the UAE require “legalization” of documents. This is a two-step process:
1) Documents must be verified by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the UAE Embassy’s exclusive verification agent.
2) After Akin Gump has verified the documents, companies must submit the paperwork for legalization to either the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C., or to the respective Consulate covering the state in which the company is based.